Tag Archives: Paris

My new French family

Saumur, France

Saumur, France

I just spent ten days living in the most lovely community – Saumur, France – which is a historic town is perched on the Loire river. Staying with my friend Catherine’s parents, in their 17th-century, 3-story house in the center of town, I was able to experience traditional French living – and let me tell you, I loved it. Her parents are so generous and kind, and made me feel very welcome.

There is so much to say about this lovely town and all that I experienced while I was, there that I will need to separate this blog article into several postings.

I’ll start with Living life as part of a French family:

Each morning Catherine’s father walked to the local pâtisserie and picked up croissant and pain au chocolat for petit dejeuner (breakfast) – that along with a cup (or two) of café (espresso) was a perfect start to the day.

petit dejeuner

petit dejeuner

We dined together (as a family) daily for lunch and for dinner, and even though Catherine’s parents spoke very little English, and my French language skills are still a work in progress, we always had a delightful time.

These meals were generally a minimum of three-courses, with the table set with a beautiful table covering, all the silverware and glassware we would need (yes, we had a glass of wine with lunch and dinner), and of course a cloth napkin. Catherine’s parents each had a unique napkin ring to tell them apart each day, so as to avoid washing a barely used napkin; Catherine and I each folded ours in a distinctive way in order to tell them apart. When we were finished dining the napkins went into the bread basket ready for the next meal.

After dinner, Catherine’s parents would go into the longue to have their coffee and listen to music or watch something on television.

On Saturday mornings we walked to the market in the center square of the city. The first Saturday at the market it was pouring rain, but that didn’t seem to stop anyone, people donned their outer-wear and navigated through the sea of umbrellas and canopy covered stalls.

Raining Day at the Market

Raining Day at the Market

Market day in the Rain

Market day in the Rain

fresh sea food

fresh sea food

Boucherie

Boucherie

Stinky Cheese!

Stinky Cheese!

We purchased fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, crème fraîche, eggs, muscles, pork, beef, sausages, etc. for the next few days of dining; then came home and started preparing for our mid-day meal.

Preparing the Moules-frites

Preparing the Moules-frites

Time for Lunch - Moules-frites - YUM!

Time for Lunch – Moules-frites – YUM!

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Marseille: The Old Port and the Sea

Marseille - Old Port

Marseille – Old Port

I spent a couple of days in Marseille this past week, and the weather was perfect – sunny, warm with a light breeze. Located on the southeast coast of France, Marseille is France’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast and largest commercial port. Marseille is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

Getting to Marseille was easy – I just took a bus (about a 40-minute ride) and then transferred to the Metro. Two stops later I was where I wanted to be – right in the center of the Old Port – or Vieux Port.

Old Port Marina

Old Port Marina

As I exited the Metro station the pungent smell of fish filled the salty air – and I walked right into the daily fish market held on the Quai des Belges. (The scent reminded me of walking down Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.)

Daily Fish Market

Daily Fish Market

As in many coastal towns, fishing remains important in Marseille and the food economy there is fed by the local catch.

I strolled along the Old Port and admired the beautiful sailing boats, some fishing boats and a few small yachts. There were lines of people waiting to buy tickets to board ferries to Château d’If and the islands, and tourist boats visiting the calanques.  Meanwhile locals sprayed down their boats or otherwise readied themselves for a day on the sea.

Getting ready!

Getting ready!

I noticed these two men taking care of some maintenance on their boat.

Locals doing a little boat maintenance

Locals doing a little boat maintenance

On a hill on the south side of the Old Port is Notre-Dame de la Garde, built on the foundations of an ancient fort located at the highest natural point in Marseille, (490 ft).

Notre-Dame de la Garde

Notre-Dame de la Garde

Notre-Dame de la Garde

Another thing you can’t help but notice in Marseille is the street art. In addition to murals painted on the sides of building, there are Fiberglass animal sculptures painted in wild colors and patterns, and most notably are some very impressive Salvador Dali pieces right there on the Quai.  (More on Marseille’s art scene in a future post.)

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Sculpture by Salvador Dali

One thing I cannot fail to mention is the free Ferry Boat that you can take from one side of the port to the other. It’s great if you want to get off your feet for a few minutes and get out on the water. The views back at the city from the ferry are quite nice. In the summer there is also boat service to Pointe Rouge, the port on the South Side of Marseille.

Free Ferry Boat

Free Ferry Boat

Following are some more photographs I took through the two days I was in this sea-side city – focused on the water… Enjoy!

 parish church of Saint-Laurent and adjoining 17th-century chapel of Sainte-Catherine

Parish church of Saint-Laurent and adjoining 17th-century chapel of Sainte-Catherine

The 12th-century parish church of Saint-Laurent and adjoining 17th-century chapel of Sainte-Catherine, stand quai-side near the Cathedral. It is a fine example of Provençal Romanesque architecture built of pinkish stone from the Couronne quarries.

Heading out to Sea

A view to the Sea

Heading out to Sea

View back to the port as I head out to Sea

Sailors in the distance

Sailors in the distance

Out at Sea

Out at Sea

Sunset at Sea, Marseille

Sunset at Sea, Marseille

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France: Week One – Part One: Paris

Well, I’ve been in France for one full week. And when I say full, I mean FULL. I have had ups and downs, sunshine and rain, met some wonderful people and have stretched my comfort zone to new limits.

Due to all this, I haven’t had a chance or the energy to post a blog yet, so I’ll try to get you up to date on what’s been happening.

Week One, Part One – Paris

Tuesday, August 6
It all started uneventfully. I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris well rested (I actually slept on the plane), caught the Roissybus to the 8th arrondissement (the Opera and incredible shopping), where I’d be staying for the first couple of days with my Parisian friend Catherine before heading down south to AIX for the first month of my sabbatical.

She met me at the bus drop off  and we went on to her home. This is the same apartment I rented the last time I was in Paris, so everything felt familiar and I was comfortable and happy.  Catherine had a lovely lunch prepared, so we dined at the apartment before heading out for a walk around the city.

It was a gorgeous day in Paris – sunny and warm. It was wonderful to see my friend and catch  up on what has been happening in each others lives since we last saw each other.

Wednesday, August 7
I awoke this morning to the sounds heavy rain and thunder outside my shuttered windows. Catherine had already been out to the pâtisserie and had a nice breakfast of pain au chocolat, croissant, coffee, and orange juice waiting for me when I finally ventured out of my bedroom and into the kitchen.

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travel lessons

Following breakfast I took a shower and started to get ready for the day.

This is where travel lesson#1 comes in; something I thought I had learned years ago, but I guess I didn’t or I wasn’t thinking clearly due to jet lag.  ** Yea let’s go with that one! **  🙂

I plugged my straight-iron into a plug adapter and not an electrical voltage converter, and burned off a  nice section of my hair.

It looks far worse than it was. Fortunately I didn’t lose too much hair, and thankfully there was no bald spot. Once I got over the shock of it all, we ended up having a great laugh over it and a good lesson was learned.

After that little issue, Catherine and I set out to purchase a cell phone from a local carrier that I could use while in France, to make calls, text, etc. without having to use my iPhone International Plan for local calls. (This will come in handy later in the week when my iPhone is stolen and I have to find my way home in AIX without the address – since it was in my iPhone… but I digress.)

After lunch Catherine and I went our separate ways, and I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Paris in the rain, stopping at a few locations I wanted to visit on this trip, specifically related to my novel.

First stop: Closerie des Lilas

Closerie des Lilas

Closerie des Lilas

In the latter part of the 19th century, Impressionists Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Frederic Bazille began to leave Montmartre and its crowds, and spent their time in Montparnasse and frequented this Café. Situated on the route from Paris to Orleans, the Closerie also served as a stage-coach stop, and the owner rented out rooms to passing travelers.

A little snack

A little snack

While here, I had a light snack, then wrote a little and just enjoyed the afternoon, listening to the sounds of the raindrops hitting the canvas roof of  restaurant’s terrace.

Next, I took a leisurely walk through Jardin du Luxembourg the second largest public park in Paris, located in the 6th arrondissement. The park is the garden of the French Senate, which is housed in the Luxembourg Palace.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Paris August 2013 038

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Then on to meet Catherine for dinner at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, a wonderful little gem in Saint-Germain for steak frites (although it’s become so popular they now have three locations in Paris and another in Geneva). This is a delicious but no non-sense dining experience, and there is always a line (they do not take reservations).

Le_Relais_de_l'Entrecote

Le Relais de l’Entrecôte

The meal is simple. Salad with walnuts, steak and fries. There are only three decisions: 1) how would you like your steak 2) what wine and 3) what for desert (profiterole s’il vous plait!).

Steak Frites

Steak Frites

But it’s the special “Secret” sauce on the steak (good for dipping fries as well) that will keep you coming back for more. Oh, and don’t worry, if you are still hungry after your first plate, they will bring you a second helping of steak and fries.

We finished our meal and then took a drive around Paris to see some of the sights, that no matter how many times you’ve seen them, you want to see them again; not to mention Paris is so beautiful at night.

We concluded the evening at the Eiffel Tower, just on time for the hourly light show.

Paris August 2013 102

We got a little artsy with the next photo, Catherine’s idea, quite fun:

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Well, that’s it for Paris, for now, tomorrow I’m off to AIX en Provence!

(I’ll be back in Paris in September.)

to be continued…

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Explore. Dream. Discover.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe  harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

sailing

Those words are so true, and I’ve been thinking about this quote more than ever lately, especially as I put the final details of my trip together – trying to figure out if I will stay for ten weeks, six months or an entire year – and how to make it all happen.

We may not always know exactly how we are going to do something, or what will open up to us once we make the leap, but I believe the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Lao Tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

My journey is leading me to France, therefore, I will take a single step each day towards that journey, and before I know it I’ll be walking down the quay along the River Seine.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

to be continued…

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A Home Away From Home

Time to find a Home

Time to find a Home

It’s 2013 – this is the year I plan to move to France. I’m so excited! As I am making my plans, finalizing budgets, and getting organized, I started looking at apartments to rent.  What fun!!

At first I searched the Internet for short-term private apartment rentals. I was pleased to find many options to choose from, and was glad that they also had reviews from travelers who have previously rented the apartments, with comments on their experience with the process, the apartment and the neighborhood.  The only drawback I found was the rental fees make it a little pricy for just one person, unless I just rent a studio, which I’m certainly open to.

Last night I was watching a Rick Steve’s travel program, and he mentioned renting a room in a home as an option for accommodations.  I hadn’t even thought of that.

So today I started searching the internet and found

r_logo(http://www.appartager.com/)

The basic membership is free, and you can set your search criteria for a specific neighborhood, duration of stay, type of room-mate (age, male/female, student/professional, smoking/non-smoking, etc.), and type of accommodations you require. So far I found quite a few potential rentals to choose from.

Now I can’t wait to finalize my actual travel dates so I can confirm where I might be living!

Have you had any experiences with renting a private apartment in Paris (or other European cities) for an extended stay (3-6 months) or have you rented a room or otherwise shared accommodations with a private party?  If so, I’d love to hear your feedback as I continue my planning for my  exciting sabbatical.

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Ten Songs: Keeping Paris on my Mind

I am just thinking about Paris, wishing I was there right now. Usually when I’m in one of these moods I listen to a French playlist I created on iTunes. This time I decided that I’d listen to some English language songs that are about Paris.  Many of these videos have great photos to go along with the music. Enjoy!

1. “A Rainy Night In Paris” by Chris De Burgh

2. “By The Seine” by The Crookes

3. “Down In The Seine” by Style Council

4. “When Paris Was A Woman” by Melissa Manchester

5. “Bonjour, Paris” by Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson

6. “From Baltimore To Paris” by Go West

7. Paris Je T´Aime – I Love Paris by Cole Porter & Ella Fitzgerald

8. “The Metro” by Berlin

9. “Parisian Cafe Blue” by Scrounger

10. “Summer In Paris” by DJ Cam

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Keeping the Dream Alive

In day-to-day life, it can be difficult to stay focused on your dreams. Between work, family commitments, and those little things that come up along the way, you can lose track of time and before you know it you’re looking back over the past day, month or year, and wondering – Where did the time go?

As a person with two pretty large dreams (finishing my novel and moving to France), it’s very important to do something daily to stay focused.

I try to write something daily, whether it be a chapter, a paragraph or just some ideas to enhance my characters’ personalities. But on those days when things come up, i.e., migraine, unexpected visit from an out-of-town friend or relative, or just pure exhaustion, I have come up with a few things that keep the project in mind.

As far as the move to France goes (now just over a year away), I can’t necessarily do something every day to move me closer, but I can do something daily to keep it on the top of my mind.

The new Vision board – Pinterest
For my novel, a historical fiction piece taking place in 1889 Paris, I find and “pin” pictures from that time period (clothing, hairstyles, furniture, etc.), or even pictures of people who look like my characters, then I refer to these pictures as I’m writing. With Pinterest.com, this is now very easy and there’s always something that keeps me inspired.

Music
I love music, so for both my novel and my goal of living in France, I have made iPod playlists I can listen to while driving, doing house work or just relaxing. I have about a few hundred French songs from many different era’s and listening to them immediately get’s me dreaming of Paris.

Movie Night
When I am just exhausted and don’t have the energy to do much else, I watch French films or period pieces (sometimes both in one film). I love listening to the language and I learn a few new words each time. The period pieces are great because they usually have great costumes and they remind me of the way people spoke and interacted back in those days.

Reading
The other thing I have been doing a lot of is reading books that were written in the 1880’s and by French authors. This immediately transports me to the time period I am trying to keep at the forefront of my mind.

For my move, I read books written by people who have already done what I want to do. It’s inspiring to learn what it took for these authors to make the move, and read about the adventures they had (or are having) living in a foreign country.

Do you have a big dream? What do you do to keep yourself inspired and focused?

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